- What is electronic surveillance?
Answer: Lawfully-authorized electronic surveillance is a law enforcement tool that police and other authorized government agencies use to investigate and prosecute criminals. Its use by such agencies is strictly limited by law. Lawfully-authorized electronic surveillance is a law enforcement agency's or organization's lawful collection of (1) the content of communications (defined by 18 U.S.C. § 2510(8) as "any information concerning the substance, purport or meaning of that communication"); and/or (2) the dialing or signaling information that identifies the origin, direction, destination, or termination of any communication generated or received by a subject of surveillance by means of the equipment, facilities, or services of a telecommunications carrier. See, 18 USC § 3127.
- What are the laws that authorize electronic surveillance?
Answer: Following a landmark ruling by the United States Supreme Court establishing the constitutional limits on electronic surveillance, in 1968, Congress carefully considered and passed the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act, Pub. L. No. 90-351, 82 Stat. 212, which laid out the meticulous procedures law enforcement must follow to obtain the necessary judicial authorization to conduct electronic surveillance. See, Berger v. New York, 388 U.S. 41 (1967). The law was enacted after Congress exhaustively debated issues concerning law enforcement's need to effectively address serious criminal activity and an individual's right to privacy.
- What are the different types of electronic surveillance?
Answer: Lawfully-authorized electronic surveillance is considered to consist of both the interception of communications content (commonly referred to as wiretaps) and the acquisition of dialing and signaling information used to identify communications through the use of pen registers and/or through the use of trap and trace devices.
The term interception is defined by law and refers to the lawful acquisition of the contents of any wire, electronic or oral communication (e.g., signs, signals, writing, images, sounds, data, or intelligence of any nature) transmitted from one party to another. Authority for initiating an interception is found in Title III of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act or FISA.
The term pen register is defined by law as "a device or process which records or decodes dialing, routing, addressing, or signaling information transmitted by an instrument of facility from which a wire or electronic communication is transmitted . . . ." 18 USC §3127(3). Authority for using a pen register is found in 18 U.S.C. § 3123 and 50 U.S.C. § 1842.
The term trap and trace is defined as "a device or process which captures the incoming electronic or other impulses which identify the originating number or other dialing, routing, addressing, and signaling information reasonably likely to identify the source of a wire or electronic communication . . ." 18 USC § 3127(4). Authority for using a trap and trace device is also found in 18 U.S.C. § 3123 and 50 U.S.C. § 1842.
- What is CALEA?
Answer: In October 1994, Congress took action to protect public safety and national security by enacting the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act of 1994 (CALEA), Pub. L. No. 103-414, 108 Stat. 4279. The law further defines the existing statutory obligation of telecommunications carriers to assist law enforcement in executing electronic surveillance pursuant to court order or other lawful authorization and requires carriers to design or modify their systems to ensure that lawfully-authorized electronic surveillance can be performed.CALEA does not change or expand law enforcement's fundamental statutory authority to conduct various types of electronic surveillance. It seeks to ensure that after law enforcement obtains the appropriate legal authority, telecommunications carriers will have the necessary technical capability and sufficient capacity to fulfill their statutory obligations to assist law enforcement.
- What is the purpose of CALEA?
Answer: The purpose of CALEA is to preserve the ability of law enforcement to conduct electronic surveillance in the face of rapid advances in telecommunications technology. Further details can be found at H.R. Rep. No. 103-827, 103d Cong., 2d Sess.(1994), reprinted in 1994 U.S.C.C.A.N. 3489.
- Who must be CALEA-compliant?
Answer: All telecommunications carriers as defined by Section 102(8) of CALEA. This includes all entities engaged in the transmission or switching of wire or electronic communications as a common carrier for hire. In addition, in a 2005 ruling, the FCC determined that CALEA applies to providers of interconnected Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service and facilities-based broadband Internet access providers.
- What is call content?
Answer: Defined in 18 U.S.C. 2510(8) call content "when used with respect to any wire or electronic communications, includes any information concerning the substance, purport, or meaning of that communications."
- What is call identifying information?
Answer: Section 102(2) of CALEA defines call-identifying information as "dialing or signaling information that identifies the origin, direction, destination, or termination of each communication generated or received by a subscriber by means of any equipment, facility, or service of a telecommunications carrier."
- What is safe harbor under CALEA?
Answer: Section 107(a)(2) of CALEA contains a "safe harbor" provision, stating that "[a] telecommunications carrier shall be found to be in compliance with the assistance capability requirements under Section 103, and a manufacturer of telecommunications transmission or switching equipment or a provider of telecommunications support services shall be found to be in compliance with Section 106 if the carrier, manufacturer, or support service provider is in compliance with publicly available technical requirements or standards adopted by an industry association or standard-setting organization, or by the FCC under subsection (b), to meet the requirements of Section 103."
- What are CALEA technical standards?
Answer: Standards define services and features required by carriers to support lawfully-authorized electronic surveillance, and specify interfaces necessary to deliver intercepted communications and call-identifying information to a law enforcement agency. Technical standards have been developed that define the interface between a carrier and law enforcement for a number of services (e.g., traditional wireline and wireless services; various wireline and wireless broadband data access services; and various VoIP services).
- What CALEA responsibilities do telecommunications equipment manufacturers have?
Answer: Under CALEA, a manufacturer of telecommunications transmission or switching equipment and a provider of telecommunications support services shall, on a reasonably timely basis and at a reasonable charge, make available to the telecommunications carriers using its equipment, facilities, or services such features or modifications as are necessary to permit such carriers to comply with the assistance capability requirements and the capacity requirements.
- Does anyone keep track of electronic surveillance statistics?
Answer: The Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 requires the Administrative Office of the United States Courts (AO) to report to Congress the number and nature of federal and state applications for orders authorizing or approving the interception of wire, oral, or electronic communications. The Wiretap Report covers intercepts concluded during each calendar year, and provides supplementary information on arrests and convictions resulting from intercepts concluded in prior years.